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Thursday night with Erickson Sensei was fantastic. It was only Sensei, myself, and Matt for all three classes. I called rei for each class...which made me happy in a goofy sort of way. I think I just like shouting in Japanese.
We started with more yoko ukemi. First we did it from squatting, then standing. Then we moved on to doing it from lying on one side and flipping up and over to the other. Bang, slap, roll, stand.
I asked Sensei what to do about breathing. She said some people hold their breath, which could help them prevent having the wind knocked out of them. Personally, she said, she prefers to breathe out at the same time as the slap. I think I prefer her method because the few times I did hold my breath, I seemed to fall harder and bounce. That can't be good.
Tai sabaki toshu was the main technique we focused on after yoko ukemi, katatetori permutations. We did the basic tai sabaki movements back to get the timing and the posturing right, then sumitoshi drops, and then some throws.
Our basic movement was the katatetori grab, and nage pulls their hand into their hara like tekubikosa undo. You tenkan back, then reverse, then step forward, leading uke around. From that point, you either do a throw, the sumitoshi drop, or you cut to tell uke to release, then step back to prepare for the next grab.
Sometimes I still find myself grinning like a fool when I get a technique close to right. I'm sure that's not a bad thing per se, but it breaks my concentration and my awareness immediately drops. My mantra last night was "head up, breathe, focus, balance". Over and over I kept reminding myself to do all four. I tried to save the smiles for taking ukemi.
Class two, weapons, started with yokomenuchi blocking tai sabaki with bokken. In a word; scary. Holding a big stick close to your face while someone else is trying to slice into the side of your head is, well, interesting. We practiced striking left and right, with uke blocking left and right. There's a certain calm feeling in the tai sabaki when you get the rhythm right. At one point, Matt and I locked eyes and didn't release for a few minutes. It was just us and the bokken. Intense, and fun.
Then we did bokken dori from shomenuchi. Since we were working on yoko ukemi so much, after uke does shomenuchi, you step in VERY close, grab the bokken, and then do our sayo undo movement, give uke a spin, and then lunge in which causes uke to go quickly down into yoko ukemi. More bang, slap, roll, stand.
Class three was open for us to choose whatever we wanted. Sensei said since we made it through two classes and were staying for the third, and it was only us, we could ask for whatever we wanted. Matt didn't have anything in particular he wanted to do. I chose katatori nikkyo.
Nikkyo, during te waza, is my weakest stretch. My wrists like ikkyo, sankyo, and kotegaeshi just fine. They flex into them and there is very little tension. But nikkyo is my weakest. My wrists just don't like stretching that way. Nothing like a good practice session to stretch them all the way out.
Slow was the name of the game. Matt's wrists weren't doing too well, and we'd just been training for two hours, so Erickson Sensei took things very calmly and slowly. We started with the static katatori grab and the control, taking time to position everything with the best nikkyo grip possible.
It was a this point in class that I felt so incredibly lucky to train with Erickson Sensei. Her many years of training has given her all the qualities in a teacher that I need. She's firm but never mean, detailed without over-explaining, and completely centered at all times; truly the "spinning-top" that I've read.
Her spirit is strong and dedicated, and she seems to take such intense pleasure in training and teaching, it's no wonder I find myself grinning like an idiot every time I'm with her. She is the first Aikido Sensei I've ever trained with and will forever be a part of me.
Over and over we did the initial nikkyo control from katatori, spending time on where to place the hands of both uke and nage, where the best position for nages' fingers, and just how powerful the little finger really can be.
We switched to the nikkyo pin, which is brings on shoulder pain instead of wrist pain; good after twenty minutes of bringing on the first part of the technique. The amazing thing about the nikkyo control and the pin is that millimeters in one direction or another make all the difference.
The three of us each took turns slowly bringing on the pin, stretching our shoulders in the process. After spending most of the hour methodically working through the fine points of the control and pin, we put it all together and got through the technique a few times each. For the first time, nikkyo didn't seem like such a mystery.
Now I have to do it about a million more times. But that's Aikido isn't it? Do it a million times and maybe, just maybe, you'll remember it.